Thursday, 19 September 2013

Comic review: MLP:FiM Micro-series issue #8: Celestia

MLP:FiM Celestia micro comic, Cover B
Hush now, quiet now, it's time to lay your sleepy head
A week after it appeared in the US (and digitally) the latest in the My Little Pony micro-series has now reached British comic shops. As usual, I picked up my copy for £3.15 from Nostalgia & Comics in Birmingham. I plumped for Cover B, which features an adorable filly Twilight and baby Spike by Sabrina Alberghetti. (Is this the first A/B cover she's done?) The comic is drawn by established Pony artist Amy Mebberson, but we have a new writer joining the stable in the shape of Georgia Ball. Does it work? Let's see, after the jump!

I'm an unashamed Celestia fan. Nothing against Luna, who I also like and who will get the final micro near Christmas, but I sometimes feel that Tia gets a bit of a raw deal from the fandom. Admittedly she's not often shown doing a great deal, but there's been enough to hint at a very interesting past — and we get just a little bit more backstory here — as well as immense magical power. So it was important to me that Ball understood Celestia's character and made her seem real.

Celestia and Inkwell lead the defence of Canterlot
A handy reminder that Celestia is actually very powerful
I'm pleased to say that she has indeed done that. Celestia comes out of this story as a wise, benevolent ruler who is nevertheless not above going into battle when the chips are down. And wow, that flashback scene brings up all sorts of questions: who are the villains? What do they want with Canterlot? How long ago was this? Unless the main guest pony is very long-lived, it surely has to be much more recently than the events that led to Nightmare Moon's banishment.

That main guest pony is Inkwell, a teacher at the School for Gifted Unicorns. (Or Hogtrots, as it might as well be called, given the very obvious Harry Potter references right from the first panel!) Inkwell is not an immediately sympathetic character, and comes across as a bit of an old fool at times, but by the end of the story you're utterly on her side. That's excellent storytelling. It doesn't hurt that she's shown to have been both brave and mischievous in her younger days.

Ponies arrive for the royal high tea
A minor complaint: high tea is not the same thing as luncheon!
The storyline itself is not particularly thrilling, apart from the dramatic few panels of the flashback, and it might have been nice to have seen something that challenged Celestia a bit more. Nevertheless, it all flows well and the pacing seems fine. When there's the odd quieter panel, such as when Tia tells Philomena what she's thinking, it doesn't break the flow. And the final panel is very moving when you consider (as Ball herself points out) that one of these ponies will be gone long before the other.

I've had slightly mixed feelings about Mebberson's artistic style in the past, but here I think everything just works. My favourite page, other than the obvious flashback section, may well be the part where Inkwell animates a giant golden bunny to help clear up the food fight. (Look, it makes sense when you read it!) Although this isn't a huge event in the grand scheme of things, Mebberson brings it alive with some very nice dramatic flourishes. (I'm assuming she did her own colouring.)

Inkwell sorting out the food fight with a bit of magic
I can't help thinking that black cloud looks awfully Smooze-like...
References absolutely bound in this issue. Okay, not to quite such an extent as in the recent Big Mac arc, but it would have been virtually impossible to have matched Andy Price's level of background shout-outery. As well as the aforementioned Harry Potter ponies (the Malfoys, Harry, Hermione, Ron...) we get a foul-mouthed Gordon Ramsay, the First Doctor's companions (Susan, Barbara & Ian), Tintin and even — wonderfully — filly versions of Firefly, Surprise and Glory from the G1 days.

There are no extras in the comic this time: in fact, even the usual "IDWords" column has been dropped, which was a bit of a surprise. What I did notice was that IDW really seems to be going all-out in the all-ages market, with Powerpuff Girls, Samurai Jack, Kiss Kids and TNMT all advertised in the back of the comic. More relevantly to our interests, there's also the usual preview of the next micro (Spike's) but also a page advertising the Equestria Girls annual that will appear first.

Various foals arrive to talk to Inkwell
And we now know that Surprise went on to become a Wonderbolt!
Returning to the Celestia story itself, I think the Mebberson/Ball team have done a very good job. My own taste, as is well known, veers a little more toward the action/humour-packed, and it's always going to be hard to match the Cook/Price/Breckel team in that regard. But what this issue has going for it, above all else, is how good a handle Ball has on Celestia. You can absolutely believe that she would behave like this, and with only a little tweaking this could be a show episode. Certainly recommended.

  • Ball is note-perfect with Celestia's character
  • Mebberson's art is accurate and easy on the eye
  • Inkwell turns out to be a very good guest pony
  • The flashback sequence is unexpected and thrilling
  • Some very funny references
  • For the most part, not the most exciting of tales
  • Perhaps a missed opportunity to give Tia more depth

1 comment:

  1. There also were Sailor Moon references in this issue, and that was really cool!